Musings, Nits, and Praises: Time-Defining Music Part II

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher


Time-Defining Music Part II

Reading J.A.'s blog on Mary Chapin-Carpenter reminded me that I've been terribly remiss to continue my "Time-Defining Music" blogs. But no more!

My freshman year at Harding, Jars of Clay's debut album, Jars of Clay, might as well have been included in the student survival packages. In some circles, owning the album was nearly as imperative to salvation as confessing Christ as Lord. (I suppose I was hell-bound then. I never took the trouble to buy the album because it was ubiquitous.)

Prior to college I never had much exposure to Contemporary Christian music. And, frankly, from what I had heard, I didn't want any more. Most of the songs I'd heard were just vacuous, repetitive praise lyrics set to second-rate pop songs. (Sadly, those sort of songs still dominate Christian radio, and CoC's bastardize them into devo songs.) In fact, two of the three all-time most mawkish songs (the other being "My Heart Will Go On") are performed by Christian singers--"Friends" and "Butterfly Kisses." Hold on, I need to go kneel by the toilet for a bit.

Ok, I feel better now. Anyhow, JoC's debut showed me that CC music could actually be good music, with the capacity to move the listener in a way that didn't cause nausea. I'd still place "Worlds Apart" among my "Top 5 Most Convicting CC Songs." Derek Webb's "Wedding Song" easily heads that list. If you've never heard the song, you need to.

Jars of Clay is probably the most influential CC album ever, which is a mixed blessing. While it was certainly a ground-breaking album, it also spawned a myriad of less-talented poseur bands, and pretentious guitar-playing college guys had another way to be cool Christians, wooing girls and praising God.

I don't like the album as much as I used to. I listened to it a few weeks ago for the first time in years, and I couldn't get over how somniferous most of it is. There are some terrific songs--"Like a Child" (but what's with the stupid penny whistle?), "Flood," "Love Song for a Savior," and especially "Worlds Apart"--but a lot of the tracks sound like the same mid-tempo song with different lyrics, which can prove detrimental to staying awake if you're listening to the CD while driving. JoC has expanded their musical repetiore quite a bit since then, and they have a better sense for varying melody and dynamics.

Maybe the flaws of the album convey a more signifcant message than any of the lyrics, though. For all its imperfections, the album has moved listeners and furthered the Lord's kingdom. We, too, as imperfect people can do the same by God's grace.


7 Responses to “Time-Defining Music Part II”

  1. # Blogger Malibu Librarian

    I totally agree with you, and you've been very kind not to blast me for my cheap shot of your BNL love.

    This JoC album was the first CC album I ever really liked, too. I liked Caedmon Call's first as well, but I think they fizzled more quickly than did JoC. Oh, and Burlap to Cashmere. Where did they go?

    Maybe I just don't like heavy-handed music; that's why I think the best contemporary Christian music isn't performed by CC musicians, but by folks like MCC, U2, and the like.  

  2. # Blogger Jason

    After Caedmon's Call's fourth album, Derek Webb, one of the two main singers, left the band (again, I must put in a plug for his "Wedding Song"), and the guy who wrote a lot of their songs but didn't perform in the band, ended his collaborating with them. Thus, the demise of Caedmon's Call.

    I don't know what's become of Burlap to Cashmere. "Eileen's Song" is still a favorite of mine.

    You're right about the best contemporary Christian music often coming from non-CC musicians. U2's "40" and "Yahweh" are very poignant spiritual songs. Of course, there's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and a host of others.

    For anyone looking for decidedly unsaccharine CC music, I highly recommend buying a Pedro the Lion album. If you like lo-fi indie rock, then PtL is right up your alley. If not, then buy an album anyway and just concentrate on the lyrics. One poster on amazon.com says the band (which is basically a one-man band), "unashamedly tackles relevant topics most Christian musicians would prefer avoiding." For someone unfamiliar with the band, I'd recommend It's Hard to Find a Friend or Winners Never Quit. But if you're really looking for some arresting music, skip those albums and go straight to Control. It explores the relationship between a cheating husband and his wife who eventually murders him. Not exactly your CC Top 40.  

  3. # Blogger Jason

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  4. # Blogger Jason

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  5. # Anonymous Anonymous

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  6. # Anonymous Bekah

    Of all things, Tyler seems to have a decent Christian radio station! So that (in addition to pressure from my very holy husband *ahem*) has encouraged me to listen to CC whenever I'm driving. There are still an amazing number of CRAPPY songs being played with relentless frequency, but every once in a while, I'll catch a really great one. I recently downloaded a Kendall Payne album after hearing her on the radio. I also like Eastmountainsouth, but they're only for the truly folksie.

    As for Burlap to Cashmere, the main singer has released at least one album on his own - Steven Delopoulos, "Me Died Blue." It's good, but I don't listen to it as much as BtC's original (which I do indeed still listen to).  

  7. # Blogger Jason

    I'll check out Kendall Payne and Eastmountainsouth. Thanks for the suggestions.  

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